Children and athletes have a new friend in the CHARMED Foundation, which launched last month.
The non-profit CHARMED (short for “Children and Athletes Regenerative Medicine”) Foundation, based in New York, is the first organization of its kind in that it supports regenerative medicine research specific to pediatric illnesses and sports medicine.
A collaboration of leading scientists, bioengineers, and clinicians, the foundation focuses on three research areas: cell manufacturing, personalized medical devices, and therapeutic delivery.
“The unique functional needs and physiology of children and athletes make them ideally suited for emerging regenerative therapies designed to cooperate with the patient’s own healing capabilities and provide long term biological solutions,” says Bob Guldberg, executive director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, who leads the foundation’s Scientific Board of Advisors.
Guldberg also is one of three principal investigators from the Petit Institute leading research projects that are receiving funding from the new foundation. He is teaming with Gary Lourie, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, on a project titled, “Human Amnion Treatment to Augment Repair of Ligament Injuries.”
Damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) are the most common knee injuries, typically associated with sports. About 100,000 reconstruction surgeries are performed annually.
The gold standard for ligament reconstruction is the autologous tendon transfer, a method that requires a long rehabilitation time, decreases range of motion, and is associated with weak bone-tendon integration. So the goal of their project is to test the ability of clinically available human amnion, which is used to treat non-healing wounds and corneal injuries, to accelerate the functional repair of damaged ligaments following reconstruction surgery.
Meanwhile, Krishnendu Roy, Petit Institute researcher and Robert A. Milton Chair in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, is leading a CHARMED supported project called, “Synthetic Particle-based Nanobodies to Reverse Chronic Inflammation.”
"Inflammatory and autoimmune disorders impact the lives of children and adults and have devastating consequences,” says Roy, who also is director of the Center for Immunoengineering at Georgia Tech. “Through this project with the CHARMED foundation our goal is develop new therapeutic nano-tools that can directly modulate the immune system, reverse or block chronic inflammation, and can be used to harness the body's own healing mechanisms to treat incurable inflammatory disorders."
The third project, led by Petit Institute researcher Andrés J. García, Rae S. and Frank H. Neely Endowed Chair and Regent’s Professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, is titled, “Immunomodulatory Biomaterials to Cure Juvenile Diabetes.”
Type I diabetes affects 3 million children and adults in the U.S., with approximately 80 new cases diagnosed every day and a healthcare price tag exceeding $15 billion. One promising treatment strategy is the transplantation of pancreatic beta cells isolated from cadaveric donors.
However, this strategy is limited by an insufficient supply of donor islets and also by immune rejection. So the goal of García’s research is to develop advanced biomaterials that prolong beta cell survival and function without the need of immunosuppressive drugs.
The CHARMED Foundation donated $150,000 to begin these three projects, which will provide preliminary results that can be leveraged to secure federal funding dollars in the future. The expectation is to transform the pediatric healthcare system and improve the availability of safe and effective regenerative medicine therapies within 10 years. So this is just the beginning.
“I’m honored to be part of the CHARMED Foundation and its vision,” says Guldberg. “And I look forward to all that we will accomplish.”
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Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience